SADOW: Most Of The Constitutional Amendments Are Worth Voting For

Fall in Louisiana brings the heart of the football season, start of the deer season, and constitutional amendments. Lawmakers saddled voters with seven of these over three different sessions, and threw in a bonus local option vote. Let’s see what to do with these.

Amendment #1 – rejects constitutional right to an abortion. Unmentioned in the Constitution presently, this would disallow any judicial decisions by state courts from ever interpreting the Constitution in favor of its allowance in some form, although federal constitutional jurisprudence would have to change for this to come into effect. It’s a great safety valve to have to protect innocent lives. YES

Amendment #2 – taxes oil and gas wells on production value. The Constitution doesn’t allow for this, thereby forcing assessors to use less accurate methods and complicates accounting for well royalty owners. This makes life easier for all, promotes a more efficient marketplace, and clarifies the impact of policy decisions regarding taxation of these wells. YES

Amendment #3 – opens up the Budget Stabilization Fund for use tied to federally-declared disasters. Expanding its use would pervert the original intent of the “rainy day fund” to deal with fiscal crises, and would leave the state vulnerable to these if drained for disaster use. If policy-makers wish to tap into a fund to match federal disaster dollars, they can create a separate one and fill it separately. NO

Amendment #4 – changes the method to compute the state-sourced budget spending limit in the Constitution, increasing no higher than five percent a year. Currently, the document pegs it to changes in personal income, with legislative supermajorities able to later this limit.  Companion legislation creates a calculation based on four factors that in recent years would have allowed for a slower rate of increase. The five percent ceiling might be a bit high, but the additional flexibility granted more than compensates. YES

Amendment #5 – explicitly permits payments in lieu of taxes. PILOT arrangements, on property taxes, the Constitution doesn’t prohibit but entails surrender to legal title to the property by the owner and a leaseback provision. This change would allow forgoing of this, allowing the owner to negotiate a contract to pay sums on a periodic basis, thus encouraging use of the practice and giving an alternative to the more usual and restricted practice of using the Industrial Tax Exemption Program that, as currently constituted by gubernatorial order, leaves room for state meddling. As such, the change promotes economic development overseen by local officials, although they will have to take care to avoid doling this largesse to deadbeats. YES


Amendment #6 – increases income limit for assessment value freezes. Several exceptions are available that freezes the value of a homestead for tax computation purposes, most commonly for an owner age 65 years and up, subject to an inflation-adjusted income limit that now has reached just over $77,000. The amendment would change this to $100,000 and subsequently adjusts for inflation, meaning that 86 percent of filers within these categories would become eligible next year if the cohorts within the qualifying categories have the same distribution as the population of filers as a whole. Already assessment freezes are too widespread and eat into local tax collecting which then shifts the burden to business. NO

Amendment #7 – increase unclaimed property fund protection. At present, the state can raid this pot of money owed to people of $15 million a year towards highway construction and spend any remaining annual balance on government, creating a huge future liability nearing $1 billion and shortfalls that delay payments from time to time. The amendment would allow continuance of the $15 million siphon but secures any remaining balance, with interest and earnings from it available for general government use. This represents prudent fiscal planning and policy. YES

Local option election – for each parish, whether to permit wagering on sports contests, that includes through the Internet. It’s a major expansion of gambling and all the ills it brings, and may not increase government revenues all that much since net gambling winnings must be reported as taxable income already. NO



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